Credit card numbers: What do they really mean?

Duran Mueller
Jun 22, 2007
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The long credit card numbers on your credit card inspire awe and if it makes you think what these long strings of numerals signify this article is for you. Every credit card has a unique number associated with it. This number is used to identify the credit card and is used to decipher various other information associated with the credit card. Let us analyze it in detail.

The first digit is always 3, 4, 5 or 6. Credit card companies use a standardized system of assigning numbers. 3 means it is an American Express or Diners Club credit card. Credit cards beginning with 4 means that it is a Visa card. If your credit card numbers starts with 5 it represents a MasterCard. And in the case of a credit card number beginning with 6, it is a Discover credit card.

The other numbers are used to carry various other information. Visa a major credit card issuer uses the digits 2 through 6 to identify the bank. 7 to 12 or 15 are used to identify the account number and the last number is called the check digit. The pattern in Visa credit cards can vary greatly because all of Visa credit cards do not have the same amount of digits on credit cards.

Similar is the case with MasterCard. Digits 2 to 6 represent the bank and digits 7 onwards are used to identify the account with which the credit card is associated. The last digit is the check digit.

The numbering pattern with American Express credit cards is slightly different. The second digit in these credit cards is used to identify the company. For example if the credit card is issued in American Express's name it will have the first two digits 34, or 37 and if it carries Diners club logo it will have its first two digits as 36 or 38. The 3rd and 4rth digits are used to identify whether the credit card is a business or personal type. The digits 5 to 11 represent the account number and digits 12 to 14 shows the card number attached to that account. The last digit is the check digit.

In case of Discover credit card the pattern is similar like those of Visa and MasterCard.

Credit card numbers are a unique way to identify any single credit card from billions of other credit card issued. Credit card technology is improving day by day and credit card companies are adopting new ways to make the credit card more safe, secure and easy to manage.

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